If someone promises they can lower your monthly mortgage payment, for a fee, run in the other direction. So-called mortgage modification scams can end up costing you your home.
"They claimed they were going to help them modify their mortgage loans, but instead kept the money for themselves," said Christopher Tenorio, Assistant U.S. State Attorney.
Essentially, scammers promised victims they would negotiate with their bank to lower their monthly mortgage payment. An upfront fee was usually required.
In this case, victims were targeted based on financial need and their ethnicity.
"They went to marketing companies and specifically asked for Hispanic last names assuming they could speak to these people, and many times they didn't speak English and the defendants could take advantage of their own Spanish speaking skills," Tenorio said.
More than 300 families were duped, amounting to almost $2 million in losses.
"They were able to tell them we are specifically here for the Spanish speaking community and unfortunately what that led to is a lot of the victims put their guard down and thought they could trust the defendants that much more and to their peril," said Tenorio.
Many of the families lost their home.
"By sending their payments to the defendants, they didn't go to the lender or the banks and as a result they foreclosed on their homes," Tenorio said.
"This is devastating to the victims. They trust this company, they pay the upfront fee and they lose their home and they weren't helped in any way," said Lisa Cummings, U.S. Postal Inspector.
Instead, the con artists simply stole their money.
"They were used for high prices items such as a BMW, large screen TV and diamond rings," said Tenorio.
Postal inspectors have some important advice.
"Homeowners should realize when doing loan modifications it's best to go through your lender to get a loan modification first," Cummings said.
The two principal defendants in this case are serving nearly six years in jail and have been ordered to pay full restitution to the victims.
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